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What if God knows Prayer to be the thing we need first and most? What if the main object in God’s idea of prayer be the supplying of our great, and our endless need — the need of Himself? Hunger may drive the runaway child home, and he may or may not be fed at once, but he needs his mother more than his dinner. Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other need; prayer is the beginning of that communion, and some need is the motive of that prayer. So begins a communion, talking with God, a coming-to-one with Him, which is the sole end of prayer. — George MacDonald
Colossians 1: 9
Hank was my friend. I didn’t know him lifelong like his family; or marriage long like Sue; or classmate long like those in ’59, but, I was fortunate to know him long enough that he became one of the few that I totally respected and trusted. I’d like to share a little of the backstory on how that acme to be.
Over the years I have been privileged to meet a couple of presidents, and some heroes of the highest order. I think Hank possessed many of their attributes, if not history’s opportunity. He was a very complex and courageous friend. A friend who was first and foremost a naval captain, of the old school.
I say old school with highest respect. In your program there is a famous compilation from the letters of John Paul Jones, known as the “Qualifications of a Naval Officer.” He wrote:
It is by no means enough that an officer of the navy should be a capable mariner. He must be that of course, but also a great deal more, he should be as well a gentleman of liberal education, refined manners, punctilious courtesy and the nicest sense of personal honor.
Hank was all of that. His education ran from near the top of his class at the academy, to the navy’s most demanding nuclear power programs. To teaching mathematics at MIT. All who knew him would agree to his manners and courtesy.
In 1778, while trying to obtain a ship from the French government, in order to fight the British, Captain Jones wrote:
“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way.”
Hank’s ship sailed fast, and went in harm’s way. She was the USS Nathan Hale, SSBN-623. The ‘SS’ indicated a submarine, the ‘B’ was for one armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the ‘N’ said she was nuclear powered. I mentioned her name and hull number not because she and her crew were Hank’s command, but because they were his love. Arguably, she was the world’s most powerful warship. Should the USSR have done something terminally stupid, Nathan Hale could have turned the kremlin into a glow in the dark sandbox. On more days than we know, we lived free; on more nights than we knew, we slept soundly. Should our children have ever learned Russian, it would have been by their choice, not that of a commissar. These are facts. Facts, because somewhere in the ocean’s depths, Hank was on station. For these things we owe Hank.
Many here had mentors. I was usually too stiff necked to listen to mine. But, on the plus side of 70, I responded to one. It was when Hank Got me through the doors of Bay Presbyterian Church and introduced me to the Rev. John Anderson, and then John introduced me to the Bible. For all of this, I owe Hank, forever.
In a stained glass window in the Naval Academy Chapel, there is an excerpt from the 107th Psalm. “They that go down to the sea in ships, they wee the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep”
From the beginning, Hank’s life was to go to sea, and to see the wonders in the deep. Not on the surgace, as most would, but at depths few have known.
Just one last entry from my Hank log. One morning we were waiting for John’s zero dark 30 Bible class to begin. Hank’s walker was against the wall, and he only had a little voice left. Quietly, he asked, “You know what makes me Happy?” I shrugged: He was pointing at the brace on his let, had the biggest smile and said, “That I found my Lord , before all this happened.” In your program, “The qualifications of a naval officer should have . . . The nicest sense of personal honor.” To me, “ . . . that I found my Lord, before all this happened,” was the nicest sense of personal honor that I have ever encountered.
God speed Captain. Safe anchorage, eternally!.
“I am a creature of the day passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God and returning to God. I want to know one thing – the way to heaven, how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach me the way. For this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O Give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Le me be homo units libri [a man of one book]. I sit down alone. Only God is here.” –John Wesley
147 Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The Lord lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
8 He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders;
he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and rules to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his rules.
Praise the Lord!
“The people in whom the Bible glories are men and women who set their gaze on another world.” –Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” –C.S Lewis
A Memorial Service accomplishes three things.
First, a memorial service like this provides support and closure. Right after my mother’s funeral my exhausted father slumped down next to me and said “except for the occasion, this was a perfect day.” We are a disparate group here today. The commonality is Hank Morgan. It is hard to believe Hank is gone. He was a presence for each of us in different ways – friend, father, husband, tennis league czar, classmate, and commander. I think a common role that Hank had in each of our lives was as a teacher. He sure was with me. Leadership was a common theme with Hank—at least to me. I always had the sense that Hank was working on improving me –I was a work in progress
Now Hank is gone as evidenced by the fact that we are all here together today and the support begins. We are the support team—shaped by Hank for such a time as this.
A second thing a memorial service does is that it reminds us of a life well lived. I got to know Hank about 9 years ago on a visit to Booth Bay Harbor. I was a guest in their home. There was a lot of Hank in that place. We sat out on the spacious Morgan deck and talked well into the night about life, about the future, about the United States Naval Academy, service to the country, submarines, about faith and about God. Hank was a brilliant man and I suppose I just scratched the surface on most of those subjects. My early impressions of Hank can be at least in part—summed up by an excerpt from Reef Points which is a book committed to memory by Plebes. This particular quote comes from Teddy Roosevelt on the occasion of a speech he gave in France in 1910. It is called “The Man in the Arena.” It goes like this:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who comes short again and again, because there is not effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”
Who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
I think those of us who knew Hank will all agree that in each area of endeavor in which Hank engaged—he was the man in the arena –doing the right thing—spending himself in a worthy cause.
In his last days—his days in Hospice—he spelled out on his board (incidentally, thank you Paul for that board!) “I think I am fighting too much.” What I said was, “No one who knows Hank Morgan would expect any less from you…so you keep on being Hank Morgan.” But what I thought was the Dylan Thomas poem.
Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
Though wise men at their end know dark is right
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in green bay
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do no go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
The third thing a memorial service does is remind us of our future hope and from whence it comes. The Bible says: “We sorrow, yet not as those without hope.” We should sorrow—we should weep and mourn deeply at the loss of a husband, a father, a brother, a friend. But we are not without hope and that should temper our sorrow.
One of the very few things on which I had an advantage the night we talked into the night on his deck, was the topic faith and God. Fortunately for me, that was the lions share of what we spoke of that evening. For those of you who knew Hank—I think you will agree that in the last decade of his life, there was a deeply spiritual Hank Morgan, transformed by his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—about whom he spoke often.
I believe God transformed his life from the days Sue first embraced Jesus Christ as her savior and I spoke a few words into his life. I want to share with you those words I spoke that brought about this change—it was the source of Hank’s hope in life and in death—and if there is chaos and a lack of peace in your life, it can be equally transformational in yours. These are not my words—these are God’s words—right from the Bible.
The bad news is left to ourselves; God would have a problem with all of us. The condition described by the Bible is sin. It is a moral problem and we are –everyone—all guilty of crimes against God. You may not think of yourself as a criminal—but that is how the Bible describes us. We may even do the best we can; yet God’s standard is perfection. Jesus Himself said “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Hank was a man if integrity—he was honest to a fault. He owned the fact of sin in his life. He knew he had a deficit relative to God. He just didn’t know what to do about it.
The bad news gets worse. The Bible describes a sin created chasm between God and us. Sometimes when the Bible uses the word death it is talking about physical death—but death is also used in the Bible to mean separation from God. The apostle Paul said, “The wages of sin is death.” Adam and Eve were told in the day you eat of the fruit they would surely die. That day they were evicted from the Garden of Eden—separated from God. Our sin separates us from God. The Bible says one day we will have to meet our Maker and give an account of our lives and the question will be—who will pay for our sin.
The worse news is—there is nothing we can do in and of ourselves to solve our sin deficit. Our default mechanism is to “try harder.” That is, to engage in—let’s call them good deeds. Community service, philanthropy, non-profits, maybe even a little religion—but at the end of the day—God doesn’t even work on that system. The Bible says,
“By good deeds shall no man be made right with God.”
The question comes—I thought God is a God of love; why does any one have to be separated from God?
You would be right in your thinking that God is love. That is abundantly clear in the Bible. But the Bible is equally clear that God is righteous and God is just. If God let unrighteousness stand, if God didn’t punish sin, He wouldn’t be righteous, He wouldn’t be just and He wouldn’t be God. How can God balance love, righteousness and justice?
This is the piece that Hank didn’t understand. This creates a dilemma. If I am a sinner, and if that separates me from God, and if there is nothing I can do about it, I have no hope!
But there is hope and it is good news! God did for us what we could not do for ourselves, and that is the really good news.
Before the dawn of creation God put a plan in place. At the right time, the Son of God—of the Holy Trinity—would become a human being—flesh and blood…a part of His own creation. He would live a perfectly righteous life—never once sinning—always pleasing the Father. Then, at a time and place of His choosing, Jesus surrendered to the hostile authorities. He was tried, convicted, condemned and ultimately crucified. It was at the cross of Jesus Christ that God’s love, righteousness and justice were balanced for us.
While on the cross, Jesus was standing in for us. While Jesus hung on that cross, the life blood dripping from His hands and feet, God the Father, (imputed is the correct theological term, but credited is close) credited our sin to Jesus and then poured His full wrath and fury on Jesus—justice was satisfied. Jesus took the rap for us. Jesus died—not just a physical death—though it was that—He died to God.
Jesus cried out from the cross:
“My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”
God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, you have turned your back in condemnation of me. Quite literally He went to hell and back paying for my sin…and yours. Justice was done.
At the same time, the Bible indicates God transferred (credited) Jesus’ righteousness to me. Righteousness was preserved…and it was the greatest act of love…ever. “The great exchange” theologians call it…my sin for Jesus’ righteousness.
Hank got it! The light bulb lit for Hank. It changed his life from a cold war warrior to a kind, humble, gentle and loving friend. Oh yeah—he had faults—but he also had a Savior.
God doesn’t forgive capriciously, only to those who respond in faith and repentance. Turning from our sin and self, turning to God to live with and for Him
This was Hank’s hope—this according to the Bible—is anyone’s hope—anyone who hopes for eternal life and a life with God.
During his last days I will confess a wrestling match with God. I didn’t want Hank to die. Hank was a good friend and faithful follower of Jesus. It hurt me to think of him gone. But the other part of me said—Hank is now whole again—and he is in the presence of His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and he is running and talking again. That was Hank’s hope and aspiration and can be yours—you who surrender to Jesus Christ by faith.
That is our blessed hope—laid out for us in the Bible.
That was Hank’s hope and expectation
Do you know on what day Hank died? He died on Good Friday. I really think Hank negotiated that date. Here are some verses in the Bible that I thought about when I heard that Hank had passed that Good Friday.
Philippians 3: 7-11
“But whatever gain I had I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law [read good deeds] but that which comes through faith in Jesus Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like Him in His death that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead.”
Jesus suffered and died on Good Friday but rose from the dead on the third day. Hank suffered and died on Good Friday and was alive again that day.
It seems like we have had a number of tragedies hit folks in our congregation of late. Three deaths in the past month. I lurch back and forth between sadness and sorrow and “absent form the body, present with the Lord” in each of these three cases. But each of the three cases, in their own way, presented dilemmas in knowing for what we should pray. Of course the passage in Romans 8 provides some comfort (and cover) for us:
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
I ran across an excerpt from a sermon by Rev. Dr. James Montgomery Boice (deceased) that is particularly helpful. He was diagnosed with liver cancer and then addressed his congregation on the matter. Here is what he said:
A number of you have asked what you can do, and it strikes me that what you can do, you are doing. This is a good congregation, and you do the right things. You are praying certainly, and I’ve been assured of that by many people. And I know of many meetings that have been going on.
A relevant question, I guess, when you pray is, pray for what? Should you pray for a miracle? Well, you’re free to do that, of course. My general impression is that the God who is able to do miracles—and he certainly can—is also able to keep you from getting the problem in the first place. So although miracles do happen, they’re rare by definition. A miracle has to be an unusual thing.
I think it’s far more profitable to pray for wisdom for the doctors. Doctors have a great deal of experience, of course, in their expertise, but they’re not omniscient—they do make mistakes—and then also for the effectiveness of the treatment. Sometimes it does very well and sometimes not so well, and that’s certainly a legitimate thing to pray for.
Above all, I would say pray for the glory of God. If you think of God glorifying himself in history and you say, where in all of history has God most glorified himself? He did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn’t by delivering Jesus from the cross, though he could have. Jesus said, “Don’t you think I could call down from my Father ten legions of angels for my defense?” But he didn’t do that. And yet that’s where God is most glorified.
One other thing many of you have done has been sending cards, and I want to say how much I appreciate that. My wife and I have been reading them all. There are far more than I would ever have believed could come. One person in the church said that he has taken out a special prayer concern for the postman that delivers the cards that he won’t develop a hernia, and I think that’s thoughtful. Many prayers should be made along that line.
If I were to reflect on what goes on theologically here, there are two things I would stress. One is the sovereignty of God. That’s not novel. We have talked about the sovereignty of God here forever. God is in charge. When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental. It’s not as if God somehow forgot what was going on, and something bad slipped by. It’s not the answer that Harold Kushner gave in his book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. God does everything according to his will. We’ve always said that.
But what I’ve been impressed with mostly is something in addition to that. It’s possible, isn’t it, to conceive of God as sovereign and yet indifferent? God’s in charge, but he doesn’t care. But it’s not that. God is not only the one who is in charge; God is also good. Everything he does is good. And what Romans 12, verses 1 and 2, says is that we have the opportunity by the renewal of our minds—that is, how we think about these things—actually to prove what God’s will is. And then it says, “His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Is that good, pleasing, and perfect to God? Yes, of course, but the point of it is that it’s good, pleasing, and perfect to us. If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you’d change it, you’d make it worse. It wouldn’t be as good. So that’s the way we want to accept it and move forward, and who knows what God will do?